Question: I believe that baptism is supposed to be full immersion. Is that correct? Where did baptism come from?
Answer: Your right, baptism is by full immersion. It comes from the ancient mikva. Many think the baptismal was of Christian origin but it wasn't. It had been in play in Judaism from way back.
On the Temple Mount there was found one of these ancient mikvas. There were 2 different types of mikva. One was full of water like a bucket where the water didn't flow out. And then there was the type of mikva where the water DID flow out. If the water flowed out, it could be used for lepers etc. and it was called "living waters" (sound familiar?). The lepers could not be purified in the stagnant mikvas (mikvote is the plural form of mikva). In the drawing, in the flowwing link. I show how the purification was done but now I'll attempt to explain how we do it today in the typical Church and what caused the differences.
It's all because of one Scripture that was misunderstood. In the mikva there were stairs that went down into it and then on the other side that went up out of it. You would enter from one way and exit from the other. When you got to the last step going in.... you would dunk yourself by squatting till the water completely covered you (click here to see the animation, it's the top animation on the page). Then you would stand up and then exit. During this entire process there would be a priest standing off to the side (not in the water) reading the appropriate Scriptures. Today it is done differently.
Today, the Pastor gets into the water with the one being baptized and then dunks them himself. Here's how that came to be. In Acts 8:38 it talks about the story of Philip and the eunuch. The eunuch gets Saved then wants to be baptized and it says... "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him". So years down the road when this Scripture was read, they interpreted it to mean that they were to get down in the water with them. That's what happens when one doesn't look into Judaic culture etc. Why DID Philip go into the water with him?
Here's why. The Roman road that comes from Ethiopia to Jerusalem comes into Israel and makes straight for the Mediterranean Sea. As soon as it gets there it turns sharply and heads towards Jerusalem away from the sea. Why's this important? 'Cause it's the only body of water along the entire trip. Further more, I went there myself to take a look. As you walk into the Med Sea there, for miles it is bedrock (not mud or sand) that goes into the water. You can walk out there for a city block or two and not get knee deep... not enough to submerse yourself. The eunuch would have had to go way out there in order to get deep enough and Phillip would've HAD to go out with him in order for the eunuch to be able to hear him read the Scriptures to him. I think this is very interesting.
Now, I'm not being legalistic and saying that everybody has to be baptized in this certain way etc. It does have to be complete submersion as it shows that we are completely submersed in Yeshua and the old life is drowned, dead and washed away. I hope I'm being very well understood on this. Now that being said... I also think there is something to doing things correctly. The Bible teaches us to be correct and true and our yeas be yeas and our nays be nay. In our congregations at Mosaic Ministries, we baptize the same way the Jews did in the mikva. Now the mikva wasn't the only way to do it either. As I was saying, Philip baptized in the Med Sea. John the Baptist did so in the Jordan River. But it was done in the same manner as I explained. There's more backup to this if you're not getting bored (I love Archeology, history etc).
First of all the Scriptures say that the first Believers were baptizing "thousands in a day". This would be much easier in the fashion I'm talking about then dunking every single one of these new converts. What happened is they would come to the Jordan River in "waves". Like 20-50, or so, at a time. The Scriptures would be read and those in the water would dunk themselves and move out and the second wave of people would walk in. If they were dunking them one by one.... it would've taken way too long (See the second animation here). Archeology backs this up.
When I lived in Italy, I had the opportunity to visit the catacombs. They are absolutely incredible. But there are paintings in the catacombs that date way back, even the first century. Of particular interest to me was a painting I had been told about. It's a picture of Paul. There are 3 different shots... All three show Paul on the outside on dry land. The first shows a convert on the land the next shows the convert dunking himself completely under water and the third shows the convert walking out of the water. This is how it was done. Again, I'm not basing a new church on this or anything, but I for one want to know what, how and when things were done by Jesus and the Disciples. I don't get hung up on it, but I enjoy knowing the particulars and there is nothing wrong with that. I know some people freak out when you try to change anything in the Church, but that's their problem with traditions (funny how it's they who say "don't get caught up in tradition") not mine.